Five Rights Your Children Should Have in Your Divorce

Sad girl in chair with parents in backgroundWe know that when a marriage ends it is the parents who are divorcing. But do we think about the fact that our children aren’t getting a divorce, they are getting two households in which to continue living with their family. Their parents relationship is changing to something different than they have yet experienced. What do you need to think about so that your children are taken care of as well as possible? For some, the question is what rights do children have in a divorce? Here’s a list that is a good place to start.

1. Children have the right to live in a conflict-free zone. Your children should not have to go back and forth between two homes feeling the anger and tension between their parents. The best way to deal with this is to take care of the issues you are in conflict over. Find a way to work out your disagreements. Work with a third party if necessary, but keep the conflict out of the co-parenting relationship so it is out of the lives of your children. When children do not do well after their parent’s divorce, this is the number one reason why that is the case.

2. Children have the right to love each of their parents. Your children should be able to feel and express that love without interference from anyone. You may have an opinion of your ex that you feel your child needs to be taught about so they can be better protected. Unless your ex is truly dangerous and a court has found this to be true, do not subject your children to your beliefs that make it difficult for them to be in your presence and also feel love for their other parent. The other parent has also had a part in creating your children. Children will sometimes become safe-hating if they perceive that they have traits that are similar to the other parent. This may play out differently depending on the age of the child. It is important to consider it no matter the age.

3. Children have the right to not be the emotional support for their parents during the divorce. When your child is growing up, your relationship with them changes. They are more able to have heartfelt conversations with you and can understand more complex emotions. When you are going through a divorce and you have a developing relationship with your teenage child, it is very tempting to tell them about what is going on for you in the way they have started to tell you what is going on for them and how they are thinking about the world. It is not the time to start telling them about your divorce and your feelings and your concerns. You are talking with them about their other parent, not your boss or friend with whom they do not have their own relationship. Protect them from the information that will be a burden for them to know. Do not ask your child to take care of you by listening and being your support. It is true you are in an emotionally difficult time in your life and you may need more care taking than usual. You should get taken care of in an appropriate place so you are best able to take care of your children while their world is changing as well. Keep in mind that children often like it when they are treated like adults. They will not tell you it is not what they want because they might like the newfound intimacy they are having in their children while their world is changing as well. Keep in mind that children often like it when they are treated like adults. They will not tell you it is not what they want because they might like the newfound intimacy they are having in their relationship with you.

4. Children have the right to not feel responsible for their parent’s divorce. It sometimes happens that children believe their parents are getting divorced because of something they did. They can feel responsible for the fights you have because of something they asked for that you may have disagreed on. They may think their behaviors when told they had done something wrong could contribute to their family changing in this very big way. Children believe their actions have more far-reaching effects than is actually the case. Feelings of guilt and shame often accompany these thoughts and they are not always shared with anyone. When telling your children you are divorcing it is helpful to make sure they know that there was nothing they did to bring this about and it is most helpful if you can tell them together.

5. Children have the right to not be the messenger for their parents. Because it seems logistically easier, backpacks, suitcases, notebooks, etc. that belong to your children are often thought to be appropriate conduits for material that needs to go back and forth between households. This is very often problematic. Children should not be the messengers for support checks, important papers, etc. It sometimes happens that the material that is brought with them in the transition is upsetting to the receiving parent. Perhaps the amount of the check is not what they had expected or the paperwork is inflammatory. This has the impact of your child feeling as though they are the reason you are not happy and they are somehow at fault. It is very important that your children not take part in any exchanges between you. They deserve to be protected from the information you are sending to the other parent.

These are just a few of many things to be aware of as you go through this process. It helps to try to look through the world periodically through the eyes of your child.

© Copyright 2011 by Shendl Tuchman, PsyD. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Andrea

    September 23rd, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    Having a big social circle,I have seen many couples divorcing and it sure can be hard for the children especially if they are very young. You have mentioned strong valid points that can really spare a child of problems during the parents’ divorce. We would do well if this message reaches as many people as possible.

  • Craig

    September 23rd, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    Often times when I see parents who have separated or divorced, a tug of war battle erupts over the children. I’m not talking about custody as this is a whole separate issue, what I’m talking about is the parents constantly “1-upping” one another. This is their weak attempt to win the child over and become the better parent, by buying them more stuff, enforcing less rules and feeding them propaganda about the other parent. This isn’t fair for a child at all it completely goes against your list of rights, which I think all divorced parents should live by. Parents need to realize that trying to win over your child isn’t your child’s best interest, it is in your own.

  • Daniel

    September 24th, 2011 at 6:45 AM

    Most couples become so selfish when they are going through a divorce. Typically each party thinks that he or she is the one who knows best what is going to work for the kids and the children have their voice and thoughts and feelings taken away from them. It is no wonder that so many kids suffer when the family breaks apart because most of them are made to feel like they are being marginalized and that their opinions count for little or nothing. This article really should be mandatory reading for nay parent who is thinking about getting a divorce!

  • C.L

    September 24th, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    Although it is impossible to protect kids from any kind of changes during a divorce, the parents should make sufficient efforts towards ensuring that things mentioned here and some others are always adhered to.

    The kids’ developing mind can really have problems with things like these and without even knowing the parents could be harming the same kids whose custody is the bone of contention in so many divorce cases!

  • Maz

    September 26th, 2011 at 12:11 AM

    Finally someone thinking about the children and their needs.

  • jeni pugh

    September 26th, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    They should have the right to remain silent and to be able to stay out of the petty arguments of the parents. I have seen way too many kids being dragged through the mud and forced to choose sides and I think that that is so ridiculous. Most kids really do just want what is bet for their parents even if that means them splitting up. I have often wondered why if they have your best interests at heart then why the parents do not offer the same t hing to them.

  • Jared R.

    September 26th, 2011 at 7:16 PM

    Yes, yes, yes, YES! All of these aren’t solely children’s rights-they are also human rights. Especially the second point. Any parent who tries to turn their children against a perfectly good mother or father should be charged with child abuse.

    My father and grandmother tried to turn me against my mom’s side of the family during my parent’s divorce. Those two were completely oblivious to the fact that I hated the pair of them and loved my mom. It didn’t work. I saw through them.

  • sabrina brodie

    September 26th, 2011 at 8:13 PM

    Point five is very important. If you have something to say to the other parent, do it! Get off your lazy butt, get into your car, drive there, and you say what has to be said to their face like a responsible adult instead of using your child like a carrier pigeon. It’s not fair on the child to give them that responsibility.

  • Kevin J. Wallace

    September 27th, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    @sabrina brodie–The parents that do that are simply cowards who refuse to face facts that they are no longer with their ex-partner and instead send the kid in their place. It’s immature and pathetic.

    If your kid can reach them, you can reach them: end of story. I can’t believe that point even has to be reinforced. If nothing else, what stops the kid from trashing the documents to deliberately make one parent look worse than they actually are?

  • J.K. Findlay

    September 28th, 2011 at 8:59 PM

    Don’t these parents have a mailbox at the end of their drive? Put it in the mail and it will be there the next day, which is probably sooner than most kids remember a note in their backpack if they are anything like mine. If you don’t know where the ex lives, and it’s important, mail it to their lawyer to pass on to them. There’s no excuse for treating kids like mules, especially if they have to be the bearer of bad news.

    Good article, Shendl. Thank you!

  • Jack Cage

    September 28th, 2011 at 9:03 PM

    Another right is for the kids to pick what parent they want to be with. The kids KNOW what the parents are like when the other one isn’t around, and their opinion should carry much more weight than anyone else’s.

    The judge and all the court officials get to go home at night to the place, and to be with whom, they want to live. Why shouldn’t the kids they make decisions about enjoy the same privilege?

  • Anonymous

    November 11th, 2019 at 6:08 PM

    I am a kid and I was reading this article to see if I can live with my mother instead of my father because my father would yell at me for the littlest things and tell me not to tell him what I dismiss or do at my mothers house and would even when I ask FOR HELP with math would yell at me for simple mistakes and when I tell him I want to live with me mother he would launch into a bout on how he has feelings too completely forgetting he just made me forget asking him for help in the first place and call my mom for help with math because he yells at me for little mistakes. I am a little bit pissed I have to be 18 or older to decide who I am going to live with

  • Shendl Tuchman

    October 15th, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    Thank you all for your kind words and insights. It is true that the experience of children has not been as prominent in divorces. It is becoming more so. The research done over the past few decades has consistently pointed to conflict between the parents being the best indicator of children’s inability to be resilient through a divorce. There is a greater focus on what children need and the role that parents play in continuing the conflict. I agree that it can’t be stressed enough how vulnerable the children are.

  • MKU

    August 14th, 2012 at 10:06 PM

    @ Jack Cage: I couldn’t agree more with the second half of your statement. It is utterly ridiculous that a child should not have more of a say in most cases of the parent they choose to be with. If anything the screwed up legal system needs to give kids more rights at a younger age so that if one or both of their parents are incapable, at least then THEY can do something to help themselves since everyone else can’t seem to think of anything other than what is important to them. I can personally say from MUCH experience that the real problem is that all of these Child Advocacy and Help Centers are a big hoax when in reality they don’t even accomplish anything.

  • Charlee Pharris

    January 17th, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    If divorce occurred when children were very young, and now they are teenagers. Do they have any rights to say if they don’t want to go to their fathers EVERY 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends. The father is telling them they have no choice? This Divorce is in Texas and I don’t know where to go to get this answer without hiring an attorney. I just need an answer if the children have any rights to say “No Dad, we want to see you but not every 1st 3rd and 5th weekends?

  • Annmarie

    February 16th, 2020 at 12:07 PM

    I am having murders as we speak with my 14 ur old daughters dad we split up ova 6 months ago an things weren’t great for a while but we managed to compromise untill I didn’t agree with the level ov dicapline he puts to her I foun myself agreeing with him because if I didn’t then I was takin her side, so now he’s constantly messagin her saying I’m keepin her from him, that is not the case at all I tell her she can decide weather she wants to go an stay but he seems to think coz he’s the parent she is to do wat he says and shud respect him more,but shes told me she wants to c him but he never lets her speak or anyone for that matter, he is very controlling an even my opinion means nothing to him, I’ve finally got myself a social worker as he has convinced himself I’m stopping her, always mentioning me in he’s messages when I’ve clearly told him to stop coz she’s got to the point where he is makin her think about he’s feelings while not acknowledging hers wat so Eva which as made her not want to read he’s messages she has also told him she sick ov hearin it she’s told him to stop talkin about me to her it’s constantly ur mum this ur mum that anyway I’m seriously considering sending her to live with my parents for a while till he takes is to court that way he’s got to believe I’m avin no influence on her not wanting to go, I know being strict as a parent isn’t easy for a 14 ur old girl/ boy wen they jus dnt av a care in the world but they AV to stick to certain boundaries like goin to school being in for a certain time not givin cheek to me or her dad I agree but when he’s grounding her for 3 months makin her feel guilty all the time at the way she treats him always constantly goin on about how disappointed she makes him an his family r in her is not gonna respect him in any way shape or form, I’ve said to her on many occasions tell him how she’s feelin wat her thoughts r but he doesn’t let her speak hell say he wants answers an asks her a question as to say for instance y she is half an hr late home, no sooner she tries he fly’s off the handle rantin an Ravin at her not letting her answer an if an even she does finally he calls her a liar, where I get upset wiv her coz she knows not to b late an I always take onboard her answers an tell her I’ll give her the benefit ov the doubt till I AV proof she’s lied but then her dad will start on me then sayin I’m stickin up for her an I’m not a good parent an I don’t care where she is an wat she’s up to wen I really do I jus treat her like a young adolescent an dnt go on about wat she’s done wrong I tell her it’s not acceptable an ground her an adviser her not to do it again where he’s bringing things up all the time about some ov the things she wasn’t supposed to do months after she’s been punished( as he calls it) I actually do feel sorry for my girl but he’s still her father ( oh f got to mention he’s only been in her life since she was 10 And only coz I asked her if she wanted to get to know him) he was brill wiv her at first they used to get on so well untill she started growin up an experimentin in make up, she was practicing on herself an friends an posting them on her Instagram to c wat uva pole thought coz she wanted to b a beautician well that went out the window coz he’s made her delete her Instagram an snap chat an uvas she only allowed messanger so he can message her he’s takin me to court anyway he said so ye all’s I really wanted to say an ask opinions ov others weather I shud give my mum power ov eterny ( if that’s wat it’s called) till a judge listens to our daughter’s thoughts an feelings coz her dad certainly ain’t 🙄

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